Monday this week was…harsh. Harsh in the way that returning to the weekly routine after any holiday break is harsh. Who likes rising before 6:00 a.m. after sleeping in past 8:00 for several days?
My day was punctuated by random colleagues bragging about the amazing deals that they obtained during Black Friday. For my readers outside of the U.S., Black Friday is the day after Thanksgiving that marks the traditional beginning of the Christmas shopping season. Retailers and malls (that landmark bastion of brainless American franchised conformity) open as early as midnight to admit shoppers who have been waiting in line, some camped out for days, to fight and push and lose any semblance of humanity in order to get the best price on this season’s hottest toy for little Johnny and best new gadget for dad, as well as a little something for themselves.
Invariably someone is hurt in the name of getting the deal, and invariably, somewhere in the country, an arrest is made. This year was no exception.
Then, they all return to work on Monday morning (unless they’ve been arrested) to brag about their spoils as though returning from a battlefield in which they have been victorious. Then, they get to go shopping again because it’s Cyber Monday, and that, at least, removes the threats and all-around lack of civility that occurred over the previous weekend.
I’ve ranted about this before, but, unpacking it, I think that there’s a theology to this. Recently, I saw a blogger refer to this holiday season as “Consumermas.” I couldn’t have summed it up more succinctly myself. The theology at work is that we’ve simply removed the original theological premise celebrated at Christmas and replaced it with what is worshipped by a consumer society: material possessions. Taylor discusses this as a hyper-individualized, crowd-sourced religion. The consumer is empowered by the ability to purchase things, to research and choose what best suits him or her. I think the natural theological premise (read: fallacy) that follows this is that material possessions are thus viewed to have a salvific effect.
Essentially, he who dies with the most toys wins.
So, the very thing that is worshipped, by definition, leaves a void, because it is constantly evolving, constantly shifting, never stable, always out of date and insufficient in months or weeks or days. Or hours. Consumermas is an excuse to throw up bright lights and indulge the greedy “I want…” voice in all of us, an apparently perfectly good reason to spiral ourselves further into debt in the name of propelling our economy forward and beating the winter blues.
Black Friday is adequately named, because I think the core motivation behind it is a very dark one. No matter how much we convince ourselves that our search for deals and bargains is for the good of the economy, or for the sake of giving good gifts, or just because you deserve something nice (and perhaps you do), it seems to always become a good enough reason to push and shove and threaten and treat others poorly.
It’s as if material possessions and economic stability were more important than the basic dignity of the human being next to you. Of course, let’s be honest: that isn’t a new trend.
When holiday wishes are passed around in December, they typically range from Christmas to Hannukah to Advent to winter solstice to the generic “Happy Holidays.” I propose that Consumermas be added to this list, because it’s just honest. Let the wish be according to what is being prioritized or worshipped.
And next year on Black Friday, I’ll be doing the same thing I did this year. Sleeping in.
Photo Attribution: I See Modern Britain